Shea Weber powers Canadiens’ early surge after controversial trade

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Getty Images

BROOKLYN – The puck rolled to Shea Weber and everyone in Barclays Center knew what was coming next.

Travis Hamonic did. The New York Islanders defenseman genuflected in front of goalie Thomas Greiss, turning his head away from the rocket blast he knew was arriving. In the process, he screened him, and Weber’s point blast on the power play at 17:03 gave the Habs the lead and eventually the win, 3-2, improving to 6-0-1 on the young season.

“It’s pretty impressive,” said Brendan Gallagher of Weber’s shot. “It’s a weapon that other teams have to be aware of. When you already have an extra guy on the ice, and teams have to overcompensate for it.”

It was Weber’s second point of the game, having previously assisted on Phillip Danault’s goal earlier in the third. That gave Weber nine points in seven games – the best offensive start in his career.

“I’m maybe [surprised] at the point total,” said Montreal’s Paul Byron. “He’s not really an Erik Karlsson, 80-point guy. But he always puts up the numbers.”

Weber is, of course, doing all of this in his first season with Montreal after the blockbuster trade that saw P.K. Subban head to Nashville and Weber to Montreal. The shockwaves of that trade crashed down on the NHL for months – from the initial praising of Subban and burying of Weber by the analytics community to the topic heating up at the World Cup to a website dedicated to tracking the two players all season statistically. (For the record, Subban had five points in his first five games.)

Before the season, Weber claimed he never read any criticism of the trade. “It doesn’t really matter what people say about me,” said Weber. “I’m not going to change the way I play. I’m going to go to Montreal and help the team win.”

So far he has, skating 25:59 per game and putting up nine points.

His reasoning for the hot start?

“Good team. Good team effort,” said Weber. “Easy group to fit in with. It’s a great group. It’s still early but we’ve done some good things so far. [But] it doesn’t mean anything if we lose two or three in a row.”

He doesn’t wear the ‘C’ in Montreal like he did in Nashville, but Weber speaks like a captain: Never about himself, always putting the focus on the team and its success. It’s frankly annoying when you’re trying to engage him on the aftermath of the summer’s trade, or if in fact there’s some extra motivation to plant his flag early in Montreal to head off the Subban-lamenting critics. But that’s Shea Weber: focused and generic.

“We just gotta win games. It doesn’t matter. Blocking a big shot or scoring a goal, it takes a team effort every night,” he said.

Although sometimes it just takes a cannon on the power play, at the right time.

“I know how dangerous that shot is. To have that on that team is a positive,” said Byron. “We’ve one of the best defensemen in the league.”

What’s amazing about Weber is that now the pendulum has swung absurdly the other way. While he was prematurely buried in the summer by those pumping Subban’s tires, there’s now a cottage industry to “told you so’s” about Weber’s value.

The truth is somewhere in the middle. Subban is a demonstrably better defenseman based on the numbers. Weber has, in fairness, coasted on reputation in the last few seasons. But the Canadiens were acquiring a player that, in the short term, could still be a top-pairing dominant force. Does that he will be in three years, when he’s 34 and Subban’s just over 30? Not likely, and the scales will have tipped on the trade by then in Nashville’s favor.

But for now, Weber’s giving Montreal what it wanted in this deal: a physical force that eats ice time and blast pucks on the power play. And who isn’t P.K. Subban, which was the motivation for the trade. Well, at least according to Dale Weise.

Greg Wyshynski is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Contact him at puckdaddyblog@yahoo.com or find him on Twitter. His book, TAKE YOUR EYE OFF THE PUCK, is available on Amazon and wherever books are sold.

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